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A letter from Marilyn Hansen in the U.S., returned from Ethiopia
July 2014 - Fours Years Under Construction…
The hole was big. The hole was muddy. The hole was filled with water.
When we first arrived in Ethiopia in 2010 and toured the building occupied by the Ethiopian Graduate School of Theology (EGST), one of the EGST staff pointed out of the window to the hole behind the building: "That's where our new building will be." We stared at it, trying to imagine what would rise from that muddy pond.
We were also trying to imagine what would rise in our own lives. We came to Ethiopia with a hole that needed to be filled...with understanding of this culture and country; with people who would become our colleagues and friends; with the knowledge, skills and gifts for a ministry that would matter here.
Our first morning in Addis Ababa we walked through the gates of the compound where we were staying and onto a road awash in people, donkeys, sheep, noise and apparent chaos. People spoke in words we did not understand, using sounds that our mouths had never formed.
Rich and I looked at each other. Our hole was big.Continue reading
A letter from Jay and Nancy Adams in Germany
June 2014 - A month of transitions
A month of transition for students and staff at Black Forest Academy
Betsy is saying good-bye to her two best friends this week, good-bye for good. She cleans their houses, helps them pack their belongings, babysits their little ones, and makes meals to help their transition back to the United States, their journey “home” after serving as staff members of Black Forest Academy (BFA), a school for the children of missionaries. The tears flow when she is alone as she realizes they won’t be back in August. Betsy is a staff member at Black Forest Academy.
BFA is home to more than 300 students whose families work or serve in over 50 countries worldwide. This diversity in ethnic, cultural and educational exposure creates a uniquely advanced learning environment. Founded in 1956, Black Forest Academy serves the children of international Christian workers and international business families who want a North American curriculum that incorporates a Christian worldview. Fifty percent of the 9th-12th grade students are in the residential boarding program.Continue reading
A letter from Jay and Nancy Adams in Germany
Spring 2014 - Being the Hands of Jesus
Spending a week living in Vizuresti, Romania, a village of 3,000 Roma people, is a mixture of heartbreaking sympathy combined with the warm smiles of the local little boys and girls.
The children were eager to pick up insulation and begin to plaster the walls of the medical clinic we were building the week before Easter. In addition, three teenage boys pushed a wheelbarrow filled with a huge squawking sow past us on the muddy road as they were seeking to deliver her to the local sire…and we could see a skinny horse pulling a wagon of wood to a mud hut for warmth.
For five days of Holy Week leading to the celebration of the Risen Christ, 20 teenagers and teachers from Germany labored day and night to build indoor bathrooms as well as insulate a medical clinic for the Roma people. Government officials had set a date to shut down both buildings for not meeting minimum code standards of decency. Interestingly, none of the Roma people’s homes met that standard, but the homes are not public buildings.Continue reading
A letter from Ryan and Alethia White in Germany
July 2014 - Learning From Each Other
“We have all come to the right place
We all sit in God’s classroom”
—From “For a While” by Hafiz, a Persian poet. Rendering by David Landinsky
Recently we were relaxing after the service in the blooming garden behind the church when some German women wandered in through the gate from the street. Presumably they came to look at the large mural on the neighboring building depicting life in that area when it was still quite rural by today’s standards. They noticed the Iranian congregants as they picked cherries from the laden tree, played ping-pong, and sat around chatting over tea and cookies. We all enjoy this time after the service to visit and enjoy the peacefulness of the church garden together. One of the German women then commented that those men picking the cherries shouldn’t be doing that as the cherries don’t belong to them. When told that they had all just finished a worship service together at this church, she said she didn’t believe they were Christians because they didn’t look like it, and she proceeded to point out which of the men she thought especially didn’t look like Christians. Then they left. We were shocked but thought of how some of the congregants have mentioned feeling discrimination and suspicion aimed at them as they walk the streets of Berlin. There are a lot of immigrants in this city. Europe is dealing with huge immigration issues, which had a significant impact on their recent elections. There is no easy answer to the immigration issues, but we are still challenged to not dismiss one another or jump to conclusions about another person’s beliefs or motivations especially based on appearances. We have much to learn from each other.Continue reading
A letter from Leisa Wagstaff in South Sudan
June 2014 - Avenues for Healing
Dear Partners in Mission,
In a letter to you last year I shared the excitement and dilemma of packing to begin service in the world’s newest nation. I spoke of packing clothes, medicines, work and household items, and prized knee-high rain boots to help me wade through the seasons of Malakal’s infamous mud. In fact, those boots gave impetus to my mantra, “Have boots, ready to travel!” Now, months later, those never-had-a-chance-to-wear boots are just a memory—along with everything else!
I sometimes think about and long for all of those things that were lost to looting during the continuing battles and insecurity in Malakal. Then I remember that my colleagues, new friends and the entire population of that town also lost everything, and more: documents, livelihoods, land, crops, sense of well-being and identity, and even their lives or the lives of many of their family members. I had options as to where I could go for safety, a family to take me in, and an entire denomination that was nurturing me in prayer and providing other forms of support.
A letter from Jonathan and Emily Seitz on Interpretation Assignment from Taiwan
June 30, 2014 - Summer Days
The five of us are back on a 10-week Interpretation Assignment, which is midway through our current four-year term in Taiwan. Interpretation Assignment is how the PC(USA) describes the time when mission workers interpret their work to the broader church in the U.S. It’s been a real blessing to us (and hopefully others) and I wanted to share some highlights.
I was a Missionary Advisory Delegate at the recent General Assembly (GA) in Detroit. It was my first ever GA. You have probably heard about the Assembly for decisions on same-sex marriage and divestment, but a lot else happened. I was assigned to the “Peacemaking and International issues” committee. Some highlights of our work were responses or statements to a wide range of international topics: opposition to conflict minerals in Congo, current crises in Iraq and Syria, a memorial for the Armenian genocide, and growing partnerships with Presbyterians in Cuba. We also continued a process that examines responses to violence. A special treat at this year’s General Assembly was the presence of three Presbyterian Church of Taiwan leaders as ecumenical guests: Revs. Lo Jen-Kuei (Moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Taiwan), Sudu Tada (the current Secretary who will be Moderator in two years) and Cheng Yin-Er (Associate General Secretary). They came as observers, to watch how the PC(USA) handles its meetings and how we address conflict or disagreement. They also visited a Taiwanese-American church in Ann Arbor. Rev. Lo gave a prayer for our new mission workers who were commissioned at GA, which I found very moving.
A letter from Sandi and Brian Thompson-Royer in Guatemala
June 2014 - Launched Out in Love
We arrived in Guatemala on Mother’s Day and were greeted by women of the Sinodica with open arms, beautiful flowers, and those sweet Guatemalan kisses. We felt their welcome deeply, a welcome from open hearts. We are so grateful for the time to enter Guatemala slowly. I (Sandi) feel like a toddler learning to walk and talk again. Navigating down the old cobblestone streets takes awareness. We step carefully along narrow, broken-down sidewalks and watch closely so we don’t step in something. When I do look up, I am greeted with “Buenas dias” and warm smiles! Learning Spanish has not come easy for me, but like a toddler I put together my new words and receive correcting and encouragement at the same time. And like a child what makes me happy is fresh papaya, pineapple and strawberries all blended into a yummy smoothie.Continue reading
A letter from Judy Chan in Hong Kong
June 2014 - Know Thyself
When people learn that I grew up in Mississippi, there is often a look of surprise. Then a laugh. Then the inevitable comment—“You’ve come a long way from Mississippi!” In some ways, it’s true. I live in Hong Kong, China, so I am a long way from the place of my birth. But in other ways, growing up in the Deep South continues to affect the way I think and respond.
One example is my understanding of race relations, especially in terms of blacks and whites. Sociologists say that the Mississippi Chinese were “between black and white,” though I’m pretty sure my parents would have described it differently. Nonetheless, I came to know people of all colors through the customers and workers in our small grocery store. I also felt the impact of desegregation of schools and the civil rights movement taking place during my childhood.Continue reading
A letter from Bernie Adeney-Risakotta in the U.S., returning to Indonesia
SUmmer 2014 - Building a Just Society
Dear Family, Friends and Colleagues,
What do you care about passionately? I was amazed at the extreme emotions of people watching the World Cup in Brazil. When Germany beat Brazil 7-1, millions of Germans experienced ecstatic joy while the whole of Brazil went into mourning. Many wept blinding tears of despair. Do they really care that much about a little ball being kicked around a field? Well, no, they don’t care about the ball, but they care passionately about the triumph or defeat of their national team. Their own identity feels tied to the fate of their national team. Brazil’s loss in the World Cup could bring down the government in the next election. Most Americans don’t care that much about football (soccer), but a similar thing happened in Boston when the Red Sox won the World Series last summer. We, along with millions of other people, felt proud to live in Boston when the home team won.
A letter from Rebecca Young in Indonesia
June 2014 - Blessed to Receive
Dear friends in Christ,
Something I love about our Presbyterian theology of mission is how we emphasize partnership. In the past, churches in wealthier nations “did” mission to less-developed countries. We have since learned that it’s God who does mission. God then asks us to participate in that mission alongside our neighbors in countries near and far.
For that very reason my position is referred to as a mission co-worker. I’m not here to bring some sort of superior enlightenment about God to Indonesians. God has been serving in Indonesia since before we in the West realized that the world is round!
Instead, I’m here to help Indonesians see where God is already at work in their hearts and lives. Together we are spreading the Good News of God’s love by being present with and for each other.Continue reading
A letter from Rochelle and Tyler Holm in Malawi
July 2014 - Not much of a Break
Hello from Malawi,
The University of Livinigstonia, Faculty of Theology, located in the northern Malawi town of Ekwendeni, has just finished another successful term, the students have returned to their home villages, and the final exams are graded. The University of Livingstonia, Faculty of Theology, is training students studying to be ministers in the Church of Central African Presbyterian (CCAP).
With the closing of the academic year we are especially excited, but also sad, to see some of the Faculty of Theology graduating students moving on to other things. This year all of the students who have just graduated from the Faculty of Theology were ministerial students identified by the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian as future leaders in the church, supported by the local Synod and overseas partners. We are thankful for the commitment of many U.S. partners to sending scholarship support for our students. Soon the recently graduated students will be assigned to congregations as new ministers.Continue reading
A letter from Justin and Renee Sundberg in Nicaragua
Summer 2014 - Our First week in Nicaragua
On our first full day in Managua, June 23, the rain greeted us with a mysterious pounding calm and refreshment, in a way we had never experienced in Seattle. It seemed to simultaneously cleanse our souls a little from the frantic scramble to pack up our home and has served as a bridge to familiar memories associated with our soggy native soil. After the downpour the sodden earth smelled fresh and renewed with possibility—reminding us of how God’s steadfast love is dynamic and mercy is renewing us as we finally make our much anticipated arrival in Nicaragua.
For the people of Nicaragua, the fits and starts to the arrival of the rainy season have been an experience where hope lifts one day, then lilts the next. The delay of the rains this year has caused the death of livestock and great concern over the vitality of crops—both of which are of paramount importance. So as you think of us and continue to pray for Nicaragua, pray for all who labor here to work toward sustainable solutions for year-round access to potable drinking water, for sufficient water for irrigation and animals, and for government and non-government agencies as they also work together to address these challenges.Continue reading
A letter from Ruth Brown in Congo
Summer 2014 - Hope for Street Children
Muoyo webe! (Life to you!)
From many of you I hear news of your plans to visit with family over these summer months. I, too, will be visiting this summer with a very special family: 23 street children who have joined the family of the Presbyterian Church of Congo (CPC), specifically, the Presbyteries of Kananga and Tshibashi.
These presbyteries have agreed to support these children and the families who will be accepting them back or welcoming them as new children. Church support to street children has been a dream of the Rev. Andre Manyayi, pastor of Oasis Butoke Presbyterian Church in Kananga, since his seminary days at Shepherd-Lapsley Institute. Pastor Manyayi’s dissertation asserted that Christ mandates the Church’s role as caregiver for street children. After seminary Pastor Manyayi presented his dissertation to his local presbytery, and in early 2013 he approached the CPC’s Community Development Program, asking for help with finding funding for a church-based program to assist street children to resettle with family members. Pastor Manyayi’s final proposal for this program, “Ditekemena” (“Hope”), was granted funding by the PC(USA) Presbyterian Women’s Thank Offering in the fall of 2013.Continue reading
A letter from Dan and ElizabethTurk in Madagascar
June 2014 - Transitions
Greetings from chilly Madagascar!
Our year of transition progresses. Robert graduated from the American School of Antananarivo on June 6. On June 14 we had a small ceremony with Malagasy friends and colleagues to mark the end of Robert’s childhood in Madagascar. It was wonderful to have those who have had a part of his life since he was 1½ be there to pray for him and send him off.
Robert will be attending Westminster College in New Wilmington, Pa., this August. We will be in the States briefly this summer to get him established. Because of time constraints, we will only be able to visit a few churches this summer. However, we will be on Interpretation Assignment starting in July 2015 and look forward to meeting with many of you then.
We are also transitioning in work as well. In this newsletter we would like to share with you some new work that is starting.Continue reading
A letter from Kay Day in Rwanda
Dear Friends and Family,
Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us (Eph. 3:20 NKJV).
Anyone who knows me as a worship leader knows that is my favorite blessing. I close many of the worship services I lead with this blessing. I believe it and I have witnessed it this past month in a number of powerful ways.
The small congregation I serve is comprised mainly of students of PIASS. They are the elders and deacons as well as the members. The elders’ council planned a farewell for the graduating students but needed to raise the funds to hold the function. Their budget was ambitious and, honestly, I had doubts as to the ability to raise the funds from the students’ meager resources. I underwrote a large portion as part of my personal giving, but there was still a sum to raise. We decided to hold a fund-raiser after church. One of my colleagues agreed to be the auctioneer. Items were donated for sale. On the day of the fund-raiser, two folks attended worship who are not members. They fully joined in the fun of the auction, along with the students. The bids rose 1,000 RFs (about $1.30) at a time on candy, homemade cookies, a necklace, rice, a pumpkin. There was laughter and competition.Continue reading
A letter from Tim Carriker in Brazil
july 2014 - Environmental Responsibility
There I was in the small village of São Mamede, in the interior of Northeast Brazil, some 1,800 miles north of our home. There the climate is always warm and the region characterized by long periods of draught. I had been asked to speak for a few days to a group of pastors and missionaries of a regional denomination I did not previously know. The topic was Biblical foundations for what we have come to call “creation care,” basically Christian social environmental responsibility. The invitation came from a Christian environmental non-governmental organization called A Rocha (“the rock” in Portuguese), which I have served as a voluntary chaplain for about seven years. The reception was warm and the audience open and responsive. I probably learned more from them than they did from me. They were already integrating church planting in dire rural circumstances with environmentally responsible small-farming techniques and water gathering as concrete examples of a holistic approach to living out the gospel. You may wonder what all this has to do with our partnership with the Independent Presbyterian Church of Brazil and how that fits in with the PC(USA)’s own sense of global mission. I’ll try to explain…Continue reading
A letter from Kurt Esslinger in South Korea
June 2014 - A New Role
A thunderstorm crashes and bangs over the city of Seoul as I write this Mission Connections letter to you all. While I generally enjoy rain and I enjoy watching the lightning out of my office window, I do not look forward to walking home at the end of the day in this deluge. Yes, I am currently working in the big city of Seoul at the moment. This is part of a new development for me, and I will share more about that below. Though the storm rages outside my window, new doors of hope are opening up in ministry and cooperation.
First we have some general updates. Our current YAVs have only one more month left in their year with us in Daejeon. They, of course, have no idea the degree to which this year has affected them, and they will have a hard time communicating this to their family and friends when they return. We will take them on a final retreat next week to Seorak Mountain to begin processing their YAV experience. We also finalized the selection of YAVs who will join us for the next year, arriving at the end of August. Kalyn Stevwing and Jordan Bailey will come to live and volunteer in Daejeon, learning Korean language for the first time, and diving into a year of Korean faith, culture, and history. Pray for them as they prepare for a year that will change their lives forever.Continue reading
A letter from Tracey King-Ortega in Nicaragua
July 2014 - Being Present
The other day our nanny took our three children for a walk around the neighborhood. It is not unusual to draw quite a bit of attention when you are out and about with twins and an adorable 3-year-old. But on this outing they drew the kind of attention that led me to feel uncomfortable. Doña Emelina came back with a surprise. In the twins’ laps, as well as the other parts of the stroller, were packages of powdered milk. She said that there were a bunch of gringos walking around the neighborhood giving this stuff out. They seemed extra excited to meet my twins and told her to be sure to have their mom drink this milk because she needs the nourishment. We laughed about it and I asked her if they took pictures of the babies with the milk packets, and not surprisingly, they did. All of this left me feeling kind of yucky. Why did this group of strangers make these assumptions of poverty and need about my children? Is it just because they are Nicaraguan, so they must be poor? What would they have done if I were the one taking them on the walk, a fellow “gringo”? Would they still have loaded us down with packets of milk?Continue reading
Thank You and Your Family for serving God by taking His word so far from Your Home.
God is doing his work and using us a tools in other nations.during my working here in Athens i observed that there are many oppertunities to share the Gospel massage with other those do not know Jesus and we can bring them to Jesus Christ.Please prayer for me that i'm a very littel to that God is using me here in Athens Greece. God bless you.